India Has ‘Legitimate Security Interests’ In Afghanistan: U.S.

Irshad Salim — A top American diplomat has said that India has ‘legitimate security interests’ in Afghanistan, like Pakistan, and the US is open to having international partners for constructive investments to stabilize the war-torn country,report BakhtarNews datelined Washington DC.

“Just as Pakistan has very real and legitimate security interests in Afghanistan, so does India. And we would like to see and appreciate constructive economic investments in Afghanistan’s stability and institutional stability,” Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, told a Congressional Subcommittee on Thursday in Capitol Hill.

Wells was responding to a question from Indian-American Democratic Congressman Ami Bera on India’s role in Afghanistan as indicated by President Trump in his recently announced Afghan policy.

Ms. Wells was to visit Pakistan on Monday following up on Trump’s policy review of the region. However, Pakistan asked a U.S delegation led by Wells to reschedule its visit to Islamabad, widely seen as a snub to the U.S.

“At the request of the government of Pakistan, the visit of the U.S delegation has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” the Pakistan Foreign Office stated in a brief press release last Sunday night. The U.S Embassy conformed that the meetings were deferred on Pakistan’s request.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif postponed his visit to the U.S. He was scheduled to meet with U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on August 25. Another visit, that of a delegation led by senior White House National Security Council official Lisa Curtis, has also been rescheduled.

So far there is no reaction from the U.S on the deferments of the meetings.

The deferred meetings are being seen in Islamabad as the relations between U.S and Pakistan hitting a new low following Trump’s policy review which included inducting India in the Afghan equation– considered by some observers a tectonic shift in geopolitics of the region.

Bera asked Wells how would she negotiate Pakistan’s concerns on India’s induction in the situation to bring stability to Afghanistan. “If you look at India, by 2020, they’ve (Indians) pledged to spend $3 billion. Some of the projects they’re already funded include the parliament house; an important dam; training in India for experts and in agriculture… very vital programs that Afghanistan is going to need,” Wells replied. “And in that instance, I think, the more international partners we can bring to bear who do constructive investments, again, in the economic sphere and in the development sphere – we are very supportive of,” she said.

Congressman Ted Yoho, who chairs the House Sub­committee on South Asia, praised India’s positive role in Afghanistan and its “willingness to stand up to China” and asked for provisions in the 2018 US budget to “deepen the US-India security partnership.

Wells attended the Congressional Subcommittee Hearing on Thursday where she testified during “Maintaining U.S. Influence in South Asia: The FY 2018 Budget”.

Defense cooperation with India vital for the US

Wells, in a written submission to the Congressional Subcommittee, has said the Indo-Pacific region is a trade and commercial hub and India is capable of providing “net security” in the region, reiterating Trump administration stance that its defense relationship with India is of paramount importance and it wants India to enhance its own security and security of other countries by addressing common concerns in the Indo-Pacific region.

“The reason why defense cooperation with India is so vital to US interests is because we need India to be a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific, a region that serves as the fulcrum of global trade and commerce, with nearly half of the world’s 90,000 commercial vessels many sailing under the US flag, and two-thirds of traded oil travelling through the region,” Wells said in the written statement.

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